AFTER a stunning end to its season, San Miguel Beer can expect another round of scrutiny from both fans and pundits who have come to expect nothing but championships from the most successful franchise in PBA history.
That has become some sort of an annual exam for a team that, as its coach, Leo Austria, emphatically pointed out on Wednesday night, has won half of the 12 conferences over the last four seasons.
"I’m still proud of my players. Last four years, 12 conferences ... we’ve been in the finals seven times and won six championships," Austria said after the Beermen were knocked out of the Governors Cup at the quarterfinal stage by Alaska, 96-85.
"I think we have nothing to be ashamed of,” he added.
Few people can argue with that. But the Beermen's struggling campaign in the Governors Cup should once again fan the flame of lingering debate that the team is getting old and is ripe for a revamp.
Consider this: After winning the championship in the Philippine Cup for the fourth straight time, the Beermen faded badly in the Commissioner's Cup Finals against Ginebra and looked only a shell of its old self in the Governors Cup.
Take a look at the numbers: the Beermen went a combined 17-5 in a Philippine Cup campaign it capped with a 4-1 win over Magnolia in the finals. They also went 12-7 in the Commissioner's Cup to take a 2-1 lead over Ginebra in the finals.
However, the Beermen lost the final three games of the finals to surrender the Commissioner's Cup championship and went a pedestrian 6-6 in a Governors Cup stint that ended with Wednesday night's loss to the Aces.
In all, San Miguel started the season 29-12 and ended in a wobbly 6-9 windup.
So, did the Beermen simply get tired?
That should be a valid question, considering the Beermen are one of the oldest teams in the league with an average age of 31.72.
Six of their players are over 30, including four of the Beermen's starters, namely Chris Ross (33), Alex Cabagnot (35), Arwind Santos (37), and Marcio Lassiter (31). Another player, Kelly Nabong, will turn 30 on Nov. 17.
But before the debate could heat up, Ross went to social media to shut down talk that age had anything to do with the disappointing end to the Beermen's season.
In a nutshell, Ross said injuries - to soon-to-be five-time MVP June Mar Fajardo and original import Arizona Reid at the onset of the Governors Cup - was to blame for the Beermen's letdown.
"Stop with all this we are getting old," he said.